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Poster: Monte B Cowboy Date: Nov 16, 2013 11:45am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Confession: 40 years after my first show I realize they played everything except Bob Wills

If I'm not mistaken, it seems to me the only thing missing from GD's musical grab-bag is "country swing" influences. No doubt about it, they had their jazz influences. Dec 18, 1973 was so jazzy-sounding that I matrixed the damned thing. (Eyes of The World!) But GD didn't play any swing, or am I missing something?

Western Swing is fun music! It's my fav Cowboy music. Bob Wills music is tantilizing and exciting. So is the Grateful Dead. They both played cowboy tunes that I liked, and I loved it because they played them so well; they both had extra players to make that big, fat, live sound; both bands emphasized excellent instrument-playing skills and attractive arrangements; both bands combined numerous popular music themes - from the same genres - into their playing styles, playing acoustic and electric instruments. Lots of famous and not-so-famous bands and musicians have performed their material for years and decades.

Buddy Emmons was among the most notable pedal-steel players in the '70s. Who knew he could sing? He's a famous Nashville sideman who played steel on scores (probably hundreds) of albums. Recently I was having flashbacks of Bob Wills cowboy swing tunes playing non-stop inside my head. It wouldn't stop playing. I kept hearing Buddy singing it. Finally, I transferred the two best Cowboy Swing LPs I have, from my cassettes to digital, and put them on my iPod.

Buddy Emmons Sings Bob Wills (FF-017), and Hillbilly Jazz (FF-101), came out on Flying Fish Records in the 1970s. I recall Flying Fish being a spin-off from Rounder Records. I recommend purchasing these albums. My links include snippets for each track.

I already transferred and shared my Hillbilly Jazz tapes with Vassar Clements and Doug Jernigan playing. They didn't play everything from their Hillbilly Jazz album at these two gigs, and, they also played some tunes at these gigs that weren't on the album. Vassar's web site explains this music:
Hillbilly Jazz is an amalgam of the diverse influences that have touched Vassar throughout his career, but it's particularly a composite of his country background and his affinity for the jazz and swing music of his youth. Early in his career, Vassar learned Bluegrass and country styles while working with the like of Bill Monroe, et al., but he's also gained respect as a jazz player. His duet album with the legendary jazz fiddler Stephane Grappelli, "Together At Last" led to his fifth grammy nomination.

Vassar says, "actually I heard more swing than country or bluegrass while I was growing up in Florida. I've always loved that kind of rhythm." Back then he was just a young fiddler, naively interpreting on his instrument the sounds he was hearing his Big Band idols play.

"I used to sit in with combos in Florida, and I even won dance contests during the Big Band era. I was playing jazz along with them, but at this time, I had never heard of Stephane Grappelli, Joe Venutti or any of those great guys. Neither had I ever heard much western swing by Bob Wills. Somehow, I think the swing style, subconsciously has always come through in almost everything I've played."

Vassar has always been open-minded to new ideas and seemingly has been able to find common musical and philosophical bonds with anyone from the diversified roster of Artists who have enlisted his talents. He always seems emotionally caught up in his performances. As his bow glides effortlessly across the strings, his eyes closed, head cocked and a pensive expression on his face, it's as if he is lost in another world.

Hillbilly Jazz is an uninhibited and unabashed expression of Vassar's open-minded approach to music, people and life in general. In the true tradition of all the great musical stylists, Vassar has rejected the straitjacket of labeling. This has resulted in a natural blend of the creative freedom in jazz and the to the point honesty of country. He performs with the depth of someone who has lived a lot and as if his soul has been prepared to play his Hillbilly Jazz.

Instrumentally, Vassar boldly blazes a trail for his band. His fiddle solos soar and glide gently over the rhythm in a manner reminiscent of saxophonist Lester Young's work with the Count Basie Band decades ago. But what perhaps surprises even Vassar's most ardent admirers is his vocals, another definite statement of his affection for cultural roots and family ties.

But just as Bill Monroe is to bluegrass, Elvis Presley to rock and roll, and Bob Wills was to Western Swing, so will and should be Vassar Clements to the field of Hillbilly Jazz.

There may be many imitators, but Vassar Clements will always remain the king of Hillbilly Jazz.

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Poster: micah6vs8 Date: Nov 16, 2013 12:36pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Confession: 40 years after my first show I realize they played everything except Bob Wills

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Poster: Monte B Cowboy Date: Nov 17, 2013 9:07am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Confession: 40 years after my first show I realize they played everything except Bob Wills

That's a Very Good example! Asleep At The Wheel have been around a long time. Bob Wills is The King of Western Swing!

I'm standing my ground on The Cowboy issue, regardless. Didn't Jerry learn how to play music primarily on a banjo? Didn't Jerry play Cowboy tunes on pedal steel? What about bluegrass? Jerry played bluegrass with everyone at the Marin County Bluegrass Festival in 1974.

I converted to Cowboy in 1973. My neighborhood produced some very good musicians. Al Di Meola is one of them. We had numerous musicians and bands from my area that were very good. Among them, we had a clone GD band, a clone Hot Tuna band - with much better violin playing than Papa John Creach (screach), and a John Cipollina clone. I hung out with all of them, except for Di Meola, whom I did not know.

Van Manakas was John Cipollina. John Zias was Jerry Garcia. Eric Levine was a much, much better violin player than Papa John Creach. Eric and Van also played in the Stoney Creek bluegrass band in late '73 and early '74.

At one point in 1973, we had Manakas doing Cipollina, and Zias doing Garcia, playing together in the same band - VERY remarkable! That band was named Hell's Half Acre, after this very bizarre spot nearby Casper, Wyoming. Van was the biggest Cowboy in our bunch at this time, and he had this "thing" for Wyoming, big time! I was at every gig that Hell's Half Acre ever played.

Re: GD are Cowboys!

Is this a cultural issue, scene issue, and/or musical issue? Is it p-c anymore to digress into the Cowboy issue - beyond just "purely musical interests"? David Lemieux's comments about Europe '72 were very interesting. He hits a home run when he describes how you could really hear GD's country influence in 1972. But Lemieux doesn't "run the bases" because he doesn't go into the details.

If GD's Cowboy influence is purely about the music, then please explain "why" they were dressing, acting, playing around, and looking like Cowboys during the early years? WtF? Give me a fucking break! (lol) Jerry breaks a rib after falling off a horse at Mickey's ranch while the band was hired to play a band of horse-riding musicians in a film. Cowboy underpinnings do not get any more straight-forward than this, sorry gang.

By 1972, 1973, and 1974 the cowboy music influences (country rock, bluegrass, western swing) were hitting "the scene" in droves! At the 1973 shows I went to, I witnessed GD on stage wearing cowboy shirts and blue jeans most of the time. Today we have tons of images, film, and video tape documenting GD being cowboys. It wasn't just GD being cowboys back then. It was everywhere. Bunches of us wore western-wear clothing at the time. To honor our favorite bands and artists, we were wearing cowboy boots, jeans, and cowboy shirts. You couldn't easily buy western-wear clothing in the NJ-NYC metro area at this time. It was very hard to find. There was an Army-Navy Surplus store in Hackensack (Dawg's home town) that had some cowboy western-wear, and that was it. I had to go there many times before I found a few good cowboy shirts and boots that I liked. Truck Stops sometimes had cowboy clothing, but I had to drive a long ways to find any good stuff.

How did I wind up becoming a cowboy-soundman for the best Kentucky bluegrass band in Louisville in the mid-1970s? I reserve the right to hold back my story, rather than blogging here. It's a hippie-freak-cowboy story I'm willing to tell Ken Burns or David Lemieux. But I'll touch base on the Lazy River band story.
The Lazy River band was based in Louisville, KY in 1976. The original band members play on this tape: John Jump, Robert Pool, Vince Gill, Bill Millet, and Bob Briedenbach. Vince Gill and John Jump were the frontmen. Vince was the main lead vocalist. He played electric mandolin, fiddle, and accoustic & electric guitars. John Jump sang lead vocals, wrote original songs, and played guitars. Lazy River band's soul, energy, creativity, and charisma were built around this powerful duo. The diversity of Lazy River's songs depicts the many influences that the band had adopted as its own: bluegrass, newgrass, western swing, Hank Williams, country rock, Grateful Dead, and jazz... and a Hippie Soundman.

All the Lazy River band artists were formerly members of the Bluegrass Alliance band at the same time, with Lonnie Peerce. They all left this band together when they formed the Lazy River band in 1976. Similarly, Sam Bush and founding members of the Newgrass Revival band were also members of the Bluegrass Alliance band together in 1971, with Lonnie Peerce. Sam and the other artists all left the Alliance together when they formed the Newgrass Revival band. It shold be noted that Tony Rice and Dan Crary were former members of Bluegrass Alliance. We have a YouTube clip of Bluegrass Alliance with Tony Rice and Sam Bush shown as members of this band in 1971.

I was soundman for the Bluegrass Alliance in 1975 & 1976. Numerous band members and me were roommates together at Harry Bickel's place. It was a musical jamming house in Louisville. I also worked as a videotape operator at a TV station in Louisville. When the Lazy River band formed up, they asked me to quit my full-time job at the TV station to become their soundman full-time. That's when I became the Lazy River soundman full-time. Then I designed and built some custom-made wiring assemblies and several stage boxes for the PA system and the monitors. I invested my life savings and purchased a sound mixer and some PA amplifiers. I already had some studio quality Electro-Voice mics and a pair of Bose speaker arrays that the band used. Besides being a Hippie, I was also a very successful live music taper. My taping follies and sound system skills all began with me taping Grateful Dead shows in 1973. This is how the Lazy River sound system was born.

Almost immediately, Robert Pool quit his bassist job with Lazy River. He moved back to Austin. The band was putting together their promo kit for getting gigs. They made another appointment with their photographer to get their new bassist in their photo spread. The new bassist, John Bieser, was still in St. Louis. The band almost convinced me to pose with them in a new photo, even though I was just the soundman. After an argument about this, I smoked a bunch of dope, and then I ran off to my girlfriend's place. That left Lazy River no choice but to use their original photo. John Bieser plays bass on these tapes, but Robert Pool is shown in their photo.

A couple of months later Vince Gill and John Jump left Lazy River band at the same time. This was the beginning of the end of the band. It never really got going. We never had enough paying gigs to keep everyone interested. New band members Eric Weber, Frank Heyer, Pat O'Conner, and Bruce Cromer joined the band. Now the band had 8 members and a soundman. We have them recorded on my tapes playing bluegrass, swing and jazz music with violin and guitar virtuoso Mark O'Connor, at age 15, on one of their tapes. The gypsy mode was taking hold. A few months later it was over.
The point is, all these great Cowboy players had similar patterns of music-playing evolution: bluegrass > hip bluegrass > newgrass > swing > jazz. But not Jerry and The Grateful Dead.

Somewhere, somehow, GD skipped around the swing part. They never played any swing, correct? They advanced directly to jazzy stuff while they kept on playing their Cowboy tunes. No other "jazzy Cowboy band" ever did this that I am aware. Didn't all of Jerry's and GD's cowboy-sidemen and cowboy-cohorts play 'some swing music' first, before they played jazzier styles? All musicians and bands, except GD, go through the swing phase first, before advancing to their jazzy stuff. (Needs to be carefully fact-checked.) It only took me six years to explain this.

Jer is saying, "We've always been Cowboys, man."

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Poster: Wichita Clem Date: Nov 18, 2013 10:13am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Confession: 40 years after my first show I realize they played everything except Bob Wills

Thank you Monte!!
Followed your links to not only the live Vassar you upped, but also to the Zias and Manakas material as well.
I'd have never found those without your post here.
You said the magic word: Cipollina. So long after his passing and he remains one of my very favorite players.

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Poster: englishrose Date: Nov 20, 2013 2:51pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Confession: 40 years after my first show I realize they played everything except Bob Wills

me too

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Poster: boxcaro Date: Feb 17, 2014 11:59am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Confession: 40 years after my first show I realize they played everything except Bob Wills

Have you heard "MINORS ALOUD" Buddy Emmons With Lenny Breau?

I bouht he CD from ART OF LIFE RECORDS, LLC , a while back, blew me away! (Yes, I Meant To Pun!)

I Loved Lenny, although I was told about him after he died. Who could NOT love such a Tangle as Lenny & Buddy?

Also , I took Broadcast Schooling in 1974 iin Arkansas, got the First Class Radiotelephone License, NO Texas Calculater! We Used SLIDE RUELS.

God, my Eyes Hurt, can't type.

CALL SIGN...W5AWG....Johnny_Jazz

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Poster: Monte B Cowboy Date: Feb 17, 2014 5:14pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Confession: 40 years after my first show I realize they played everything except Bob Wills

I used slide rules in my electronics and broadcasting classes in '73 and '74 too. They were fast, you had to think on your toes, and they worked great. No batteries required!

I remember when those Texas Instruments calculators first came out. They were expensive. Only a few kids in my class had them. My slide rule worked just as good.